Business ethics (also corporate ethics) is a form of applied ethics or professional ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that arise in a business environment. It applies to all aspects of business conduct and is relevant to the conduct of individuals and entire organizations.
Business ethics has both normative and descriptive dimensions. As a corporate practice and a career specialization, the field is primarily normative. Ethics implicitly regulates areas and details of behavior that lie beyond governmental control. The emergence of large corporations with limited relationships and sensitivity to the communities in which they operate accelerated the development of formal ethics regimes.
Business ethical norms reflect the norms of each historical period. As time passes norms evolve, causing accepted behaviors to become objectionable. Business ethics and the resulting behavior evolved as well. Business was involved in slavery, colonialism, and the cold war. The term 'business ethics' came into common use in the United States in the early 1970s. By the mid-1980s at least 500 courses in business ethics reached 40,000 students, using some twenty textbooks and at least ten casebooks along supported by professional societies, centers and journals of business ethics. The Society for Business Ethics was started in 1980. European business schools adopted business ethics after 1987 commencing with the European Business Ethics Network In 1982 the first single-authored books in the field appeared.
Functional business areas of ethics
Fundamentally, finance is a social science discipline. The discipline borders behavioral economics, sociology, economics, accounting and management. It concerns technical issues such as the mix of debt and equity, dividend policy, the evaluation of alternative investment projects, options, futures, swaps, and other derivatives, portfolio diversification and many others.
Aristotle said, "the end and purpose of the polis is the good life". Adam Smith characterized the good life in terms of material goods and intellectual and moral excellences of character. Smith in his The Wealth of Nations commented, "All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind
Fairness in trading practices, trading conditions, financial contracting, sales practices, consultancy services, tax payments, internal audit, external audit and executive compensation also fall under the umbrella of finance and accounting. Particular corporate ethical/legal abuses include: creative accounting, earnings management, misleading financial analysis insider trading, securities fraud, bribery/kickbacks and facilitation payments.
Human resource management
Human resource management occupies the sphere of activity of recruitment selection, orientation, performance appraisal, training and development, industrial relations and health and safety issues. Business Ethicists differ in their orientation towards labour ethics. Some assess human resource policies according to whether they support an egalitarian workplace and the dignity of labor.
Among the many people management strategies that companies employ are a "soft" approach that regards employees as a source of creative energy and participants in workplace decision making, a "hard" version explicitly focused on control and Theory Z that